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Modernising social workCritical considerations$
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John Harris and Vicky White

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9781847420060

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781847420060.001.0001

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Customer-citizenship in modernised social work

Customer-citizenship in modernised social work

(p.67) Four Customer-citizenship in modernised social work
Modernising social work

John Harris

Policy Press

This chapter explores the origins of consumerism – in public services generally and social work specifically – in the Conservative governments' reforms of the public sector in the United Kingdom. It then discusses the way in which New Labour depicts the public sector as locked into its social-democratic welfare-state origins in terms of the rigidity and uniformity of its ‘monolithic’ service provision. In the modernisation agenda, the form and content of this portrayal of public-sector provision is contrasted with the fluidity and flexibility of contemporary consumer culture. Second, businesses operating within that culture are seen by New Labour as having much to teach the public sector about how to transform its services. Third, at the centre of the transformation that New Labour requires, there emerges the figure of the customer-citizen with high expectation, forged in consumer culture, carried over into encounters with the public sector, and straining at the leash to make choices about the services s/he receives. The chapter also considers the emergent managerial role envisaged for customer-citizens.

Keywords:   United Kingdom, modernisation, New Labour, consumerism, social work, public services, public sector, welfare state, consumer culture, customer-citizens

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